LFC manager search: Villas-Boas in profile

So the King has departed and FSG are faced with the unenviable task of appointing the right man to replace Kenny. It’s anyone’s guess in the football betting markets as to who could fill the King’s shoes. Reports indicate that they have invited Roberto Martinez, the Wigan boss, and Andre Villas Boas, the former Chelsea manager – among others – to hold talks and are likely to take their time making their choice.

While sacking Kenny was a surprise, FSG do seem to be in control of the situation and are acting with a clear vision in their mind. Here I will try to bring to fore what each candidate for the job brings to the table and what could prove to be his undoing. While I may be disappointed with Kenny’s premature sacking, I will support the new manager wholeheartedly – because he is the LFC manager and I support the club.

André Villas-Boas

Managerial career:

Born in Porto, Portugal, André Villas-Boas (aka AVB) began his managerial journey when Sir Bobby Robson, who was then manager of Porto, impressed by his footballing acumen, appointed him to Porto’s observation department. Robson also arranged for Villas-Boas to obtain the FA coaching qualification, the UEFA C licence in Scotland and for him to study the training methods of Ipswich Town. Villas-Boas later also obtained his B licence, A licence and UEFA Pro Licence in Scotland, under the tutelage of Jim Fleeting. Unusually for a manager at the top level, he has no prior experience as a professional footballer.

After a short stint as head coach of the British Virgin Islands national team, he moved onto a career as an assistant coach at Porto under José Mourinho. As Mourinho moved from Porto to Chelsea and then later Inter Milan, Villas-Boas followed.

Villas Boas finally got his break when Rogério Gonçalves resigned as the manager of Academia de Coimbra, who were in the relegation places and without a win. Boas then turned their season helping the finish seventh and going up to semi-finals of the Portuguese league cup. Brought into limelight by his success, he was appointed the coach of FC Porto where he 4 titles and finished the season unbeaten with 27 wins and 3 draws.

Then came the cash rich Chelsea and bought him out from Porto. After a decent start to the league, his season started turning for the worse when they lost to Liverpool both in the League Cup and Premier League. The slide of results coupled with a backroom unrest, where in an effort to bring in a new style and philosophy to the club he alienated the clubs uber powerful senior players. And thus came the premature end to Villas Boas’ short rein as Chelsea manager when he was sacked on 4 March 2012 after a league loss to West Brom.

He has be out of a job since but had been rumoured to be close to accepting the managerial post at Italian side Roma.

Managerial Philosophy:

Villas Boas is known to operate with a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 system. He has an attacking approach to the game and likes to keep a tidy defence record. Unlike Jose Mourinho he gives his fullbacks more freedom and prefers them take part in the attack. His tactics are more free flowing and easy on the eye and not as mechanical as Mourinho’s.

He prefers to play with ball playing defenders who can bring the ball out of attack and maintain a high defensive line. He expects his defenders to bring the ball out of defence and try to outnumber the opposition midfield. Here with the numeric advantage he will try to either pass the ball in front of defence and try to bait them out of their positions or rely on the skills of individual players to create chances. There is no doubt that AVB is an astute reader of the game and is no afraid to ring in changes early. He also tends to prefer to protect a lead and plays defensively once they have taken the lead. This tactic has backfired on him many a times where he has tried to rely on his defenders keep a clean sheet. Trying to do this with the aging Terry who has long lost his pace and David Luiz whose game sense is comparable to a Chipmunk’s can be suicidal – as Villas-Boas found out. With a strong defensive pairing in Agger and Skrtel, along with the protection of Lucas, it would be interesting to see how we perform with such tactics. He also carries out a thorough examination of his opposition and is known to show players videos on how the opponents play and educate them on how best to deal with them.

A lot was expected out of him when he arrived at Chelsea. He was expected to be the face of the revolution that Chelsea so desperately craved. His transition to the English game was questionable. Every team has got its own strengths and weaknesses and Villas-Boas did not adapt his strategy to suit the needs of Chelsea. Arguably, he tried to bring in too much too quickly. Whether his players understood what he wanted and deliberately defied him or whether they did initially try and did not understand his style is not exactly clear but his ideas were clearly not reproduced by the Chelsea squad.

Villas-Boas is also a workaholic who spends a lot of hours on the training ground trying to get it absolutely right. It is also difficult to say just how much he had say in signing youngster like Courtois and De Bruyne as they have been widely acclaimed to have been signings of Chelsea director of football Michael Emenalo and Boas is thought to have no input in their signings. One must not forget that at Porto he inherited a squad that was challenging for the title every year and the squad had a winning mentality. Also Porto being a selling club has a squad with higher adaptability. His major transfer were Nicolas Otamendi and Joao Moutinho as replacements for the departing Bruno Alves and Raul Meirelis in like for like replacements. The two have generally performed well and are integral to Porto’s squad. Amongst his Chelsea signings Mata has been the main man for Chelsea while Meirelis has been lukewarm this season.

The biggest talking point of his stint as a Chelsea manager was the reported rift with the Chelsea old guard. While we have our own ageing players, I do not believe they will stand in the way of the future manager and development of the squad. AVB is known to have a very good relationship with his former charges at Porto and also the younger Chelsea players. While the majority of the blame lies with the Chelsea players, AVB share some part of the blame too in his handling of the whole issue. He could have been softer and more subtle in treatment of the players and alienating players who are liked in the dressing room is sure to lead to a rift between the players and the manager. Villas-Boas is also said to be highly motivational in his speeches.

So there we have it, a dossier on AVB. So what do you think? Could he fit well at LFC?

Next up: Roberto Martinez

Mahesh M.

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